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Updated: November 13, 2011 14:20 IST

‘Time for gene revolution'

Staff Reporter
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"India is on the wrong track, ignoring advantages of transgenic crops," says B. Sesikeran, Director, National Institute of Nutrition

“Over 50 percent of children below five years in India are underweight. And, escalating food prices have ensured that the poor constantly reduce their intake. Yet, we lag way behind in adopting technology, while countries with surplus and relatively inexpensive food continue to embrace it,” said B. Sesikeran, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

He was delivering the award-winning Srinkatia Memorial Lecture on ‘Technology for better nutrition' – at the 43rd National Conference of the National Society of India on ‘Economic Transition in Nutrition' – at the NIN campus, here on Saturday.

“Innovation in food technology is mandatory to ensure food security in our country. It is now time to move from green revolution to a gene revolution,” he said.

Pointing out that 29 countries and 15.4 billion farmers have benefited through transgenic technology, he said that India is on the wrong track, ignoring advantages of transgenic crops. With persistent decrease in cultivable land, he said that only improved farm practices, breeding and biotechnology can enable a 250 per cent growth in food production, while avoiding them will contribute to a mere 50 per cent growth.

Even as the economy is on the rise and cost of living is increasing, unhealthy foods are becoming cheaper and there is significant fall in the intake of cereals and pulses, he informed. Genetic modification can ensure that proteins, vitamins and minerals are enhanced in foods that the poor can afford. “Bio fortification of energy rich staple foods uses systemic plant breeding or genetic techniques to develop micronutrient rich staple food. It has the advantage of being low cost and has regional appropriateness,” he said.

GM crops

While acknowledging the risks that Genetically Modified (GM) crops may pose, he said that the ratio of benefits from the crops outweigh their risks a great deal. “We are consuming mutated crops for decades. The panic about them, however, is new found. That millions in other countries are eating GM crops, after risk assessment, and are healthy is testimony that the crops are safe,” added. The need of the hour is to produce more food from less land, less water and less labour; and in a sustainable manner.

No its not time for a "Gene Revolution". Its time to kill the BRAI bill and send these multi-nationals home.

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Nov 23, 2011 at 19:08 IST

There are large costs of fertilizer and pesticide manufacturing - energy consumption by factories, environmental pollution and human health. You cannot isolate the costs to the farm alone, and conveniently forget about the macroeconomics. That would be foolish and unscientific. Technology is not the end, sustainability is. No one is against science but "development" is such an overrated word. In the same way we do not want some seed company to control food supply, this is against the security of nation and GMO could have long term side effects we don't need to engage in - its not worth it.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 21:46 IST

They asked us to use fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and we did. After a few bumper crops, our soil lost fertility and toxins spread through our rivers, lakes and ruined the health of farm animals, ecosystem and human beings. Now they are peddling another poison - BT to replace the previous one. This is unustainable and goes against the grains of nature. We do not want to buy our seeds, we want to replant seeds from past generations, we want to make the best possible use of the soil by ideas such as Navdhanya and crop rotation. Stop selling and promoting poison.

from:  Kerala Organic
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 17:08 IST

At a BT Brinjal conference in Orissa, I had seen several types of indigenously grown brinjal in all shapes and colors. I wondered why people like Shantaram and Sesikeran are proposing a new type of Brinjal with bacteria's genes inside it, where the seed cannot be used after one planting, which is more expensive and will lead to more farmer suicides, and make our nation ever so dependent on bio-tech seed manufacturers. Have they researched each of these indigenous brinjal types to see what they have to offer in terms of nutrition and health ? There is a reason why food-borne illnesses are one of the highest in the US (where Corn and Soy are GMO). This is why Europe has banned GMO.

from:  Aurobindo
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 17:02 IST

How would vegetarianism and organic farming keep people from going hungry? Have
you seen the prices or organic crops? In this age, technology is essential for
betterment. GM is the next logical step to take for improving efficiency, along with
what was said above about food storage and policies. As Mr. Sesikaran said, the
benefits outweigh the risks manifold. And Vandana Shiva doesn't debunk just GM
technology, she calls almost technology unnecessary/evil. Now if that isn't regressive,
I don't know what is.

from:  VoiceOfReason
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 14:39 IST

We are glad to see writings of those by Ashish who properly obey India's colonial overlords of Europe. Our scientists produce things like Bt Brinjal, which will stop us getting money from Europe. Also our crops are old and unhealthy so we can buy cheap food from the US and should listen to the activists paid by our foreign leaders. Everyone knows that 'progress' means forgetting the old ways when we could starve to death with dignity instead of being a fat slave of Monsanto.

from:  Siddharth PK
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 01:46 IST

Thanks to scientists like Dr. Sesikeran that truthful scientific information is now reaching the general public. No thanks to people like Dr. Vandana Shiva that benefits of an otherwise perfectly safe technology products are being denied to poor farmers and people of India who need it most. I am really surprised that The Hindu newspaper, no friend of modern biotech GM crops, has given such a deserving coverage to scientists like Dr. Sesikeran. This seldom happens at The Hindu. There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, after all. it is time for true and honest scientists to take center stage in the great Indian GM debate.

from:  Dr. Shanthu Shantharam
Posted on: Nov 15, 2011 at 01:05 IST

Thanks to true scientists like Vandana Shiva, immature and risky experiments such as Genetic Modification have been debunked. Nature has enough bio-diversity to handle climate change and population growth. We need better food policies, promote vegetarianism, facilitate storage and transport of food-grains, encourage organic farming and discourage monoculture. We do this and noone in the world will go hungry. Enough of these biotech companies like Monsanto, Cargil, Syngenta and Dupont spreading mis-information in the name of science. They want to control global food supply and we will NOT let them do it.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Nov 14, 2011 at 16:51 IST

Why these people are misguiding us? God may save us !How the crops are
safe?

from:  Pankaj Bhushan
Posted on: Nov 14, 2011 at 04:01 IST

this article is very impressive. the idea is to help people get proper nutrition & long healthy life.

from:  chandrakant malani
Posted on: Nov 14, 2011 at 02:16 IST
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